Yes, still several months after an end of summer trip to Burma, I’ve yet to get around to publishing all the images that I wanted to share. A hefty collection of the remains are here, and probably one more post will follow soon to wrap everything up. These images were captured around the capital, Yangon, as I explored it over several days. Given the quantity of images I want to present here, I’ve decided to divide them into a sort of few mini-essays for easier consumption.
The first method one may use to navigate this urban spread are the fleet of aging taxis that ply the streets. Most, if not all, of them in Yangon are decades old, and in various states of disrepair. It seems the only requirement for obtaining a license for using your car as a taxi, is the ability to post a sign on the roof, and your photo on the dashboard, declaring your services as such.
This was one of the few meter taxis I found. More often, drivers and passengers employ the negotiation system to reach a final fare.
For most locals with limited income, taking taxis on a regular basis is simply not feasible. There are busses of course, as you’ll see below, but many it seems still opt to move about on foot, sometimes walking several hours a day in the rain and heat to reach their destinations.
The form of transport partially visible here, called a trishaw or sidecar, is sort of unique to Burma. While most South East Asian countries have some type of pedaled passenger vehicle, these found in Yangon and elsewhere in the country, are different in that, the passenger rides in a small wooden sidecar to the right of the driver, where as most other nearby nation’s versions put the passenger either in front or behind.
For those needing to travel outside the city limits, the circular railway that loops through rural suburbs and back to the city is good option. Walking along the tracks will also work, and is probably not that much slower.
The beds of small pick up trucks lined with benches that provide transport from fixed points also serve as option of travel for many locals.
Being a capital city, busses of course also serve some of the needs of the people. For those familiar with South East Asia, you may notice something missing here in our exploration of means of transport. We’ve seen all the usual suspects, taxi, bus, train, bike and foot, but what is missing? What does my city of Saigon have ten of millions of that Yangon barely has at all? Motorbikes! Motorized two-wheeled transport, ubiquitous in most of the region, are reserved only for government officials in Yangon. That’s probably why the city was so peaceful, and why I liked it so much.
One of the more fascinating places I came across in the city were the docks along the river where large ships carry both cargo and people in and away from the capital. Vessels loaded with thousands of bags of rice and other goods are manually loaded and unloaded every day. For most Burmese, intense manual labor is just a way of life and survival.
The bridges connecting the dockside to the mainland are the major arteries for the goods arriving or departing, as well as for numerous vendors who take up space on its edges, hoping to capitalize on the non-stop flow of traffic.
On the side of firm land, trucks wait to be filled or emptied by the steady stream of workers making the trip to and from the docks countless times per day.
Meanwhile, in the bowels of the ship, some wait for the ship to be ready for departure, while others try to distribute their goods.
Others still take a brief opportunity for a nap.
A local vendor sells the ever popular Kunya, the Burmese version of betel nut, which when chewed, produces a bright red spit and black stained teeth.
If my memory serves me correctly, it was this man in the foreground that offered the only mild resistance to being photographed that I came across during my whole stay in the country.
The Sule Pagoda, which rests in the middle of a large traffic circle, provides a backdrop for a scene of typical daily life in Yangon.
A youngster chases his ball down the steps of an overpass connecting the Sule Pagoda with the roadside.
A shop is filled with thousands of pairs of sandals at the Bogyoke (pronounced Bojo) market, named after the famous Burmese general, and father of the recently released democratic hero Aung San Suu Kyi.
In another market downtown, a man displays for my camera his live goods on offer.
This shopping center that has seen better days I think gives a good idea of the general condition of most of the city. It’s slow deterioration, I believe gives Yangon much of its charm.
Hninzigone Home For The Aged
This final collection of images takes us to an elderly home I passed by quite a few times while travelling from my friend’s house where I was staying, toward downtown, or elsewhere in the city. Finally, nearing the end of my trip, I learned that I could visit, and with my newly befriended monk as a guide, we did just that. We were received warmly by the man shown in the last frame, who spoke English surprising well, and given a brief tour around the facilities. I originally had thoughts of a larger story emerging from here, but given that I visited toward the end of my time in Yangon, coupled with what I was able to see on this visit, lead me to believe that these few images are probably it for now.
Quiet time for meditation in a large chapel-like room is a big part of the residents’ days here.
In a ward caring for those with health problems, residents watch religious programming on TV.
Others with enough strength are encouraged to excercise to help maintain their bodies.
And finally, a quick cameo of yours truly, taken by my friend who was with me this day. As I always shoot with my camera in manual mode, usually anyone who picks it up and tries to take these photos of me (though much appreciated), either drastically under or overexposes the frame, not knowing any better or how to set the camera properly. This one was quite dark, but I was able to rescue it enough to post here, and at least there were a few photos of me taken on this trip. Here, after the visit, I donated what I had on me at the time, ten dollars. If you look at the box, you’ll see a few zeros are covered up, very minimally hiding the fact that others probably give a lot more than I did. But oh well, it’s the thought that counts. Right?